2012

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Dec 31, 2012

Choosing the right Goggles for you

Are there differences between swimming goggles which I should consider? What swimming goggles should I use for my triathlon swim? I get asked these questions and many more over and over from the beginner swimmers I coach. And no wonder, with the plethora of different shapes, types, lens colors and brands of goggles out there, it is a very confusing world for a non-expert. Usually, what tends to happen is that the first pair of goggles that you come across are the ones in your local supermarket's aquatics aisle not realizing that this is probably the worst pair of goggles you can find :). When you get to the pool, you discover that they do not sit properly on your face, they constantly leak and they fog up after a lap. I did touch upon some tips for buying your first pair of swimming goggles already in one of my previous swimming goggle posts, but it does not hurt to hear an opinion from another expert. This time I asked the actual professional swimming equipment seller WT Sports about what one should consider when buying swimming goggles and here is what came out of our discussion.
Aqua Sphere Vista mask goggles

Enter WT Sports:
Picking the right goggles is a challenge many swimmers face. Despite it being such a vital piece of equipment to any swimmer, some don’t take the time to compare the wide variety of goggle types on offer, and subsequently just buy the first pair they see.

When it comes to choosing which goggles are right for you, there are a few things you should consider: shape, lens color and type, and of course, price. Additionally when assessing each of these elements it is necessary to think about what function the swimming goggles will be serving; e.g. competitive racing, training, pool swimming, outdoor swimming or snorkeling. Let’s take a quick look at each factor and make the decision process a little bit easier.

Shape


Probably the most obvious factor in choosing goggles, the shape is vital to ensuring that you like how they look, and of course making sure they comfortably fit your eye socket or face contours. Goggles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the small competition models to the full sized masks. The smaller pairs are usually designed with competitive racing in mind, and as such are designed to fit closer to your eyes and make you more hydrodynamic. However, this closer fit might cause some eye lash friction with the goggles for the individuals with longer eye lashes. Let's just say, it is a bit annoying to feel your every blink. On the other hand the mask-style goggles are built to serve a different purpose – for recreational use, or even snorkeling in the case of the over-sized models. In this way they’re a lot larger and provide the benefit of increasing visibility – particularly peripheral vision.

Those that don’t race often and just swim for recreation purposes may be more suited to the mask shaped goggles, as the smaller competition styles may become uncomfortable after prolonged use, and if too tight may create a case of panda eye! Also, the mask is easier to be fitted onto your face, so you are less likely run into trouble with water leakage.

Lens color and type


Depending on where you are going to be swimming, you’ll need to consider what type and color of lens you want on your goggles. Clear lenses offer maximum visibility in dim lit areas and are particularly good for indoor swimming. On the other hand mirrored effect models are great for outdoor use, especially for reflecting light away from your eyes when the sun is bright! There are also lens types that make it easier to see around you when swimming underwater – usually orange tinted to enhance brightness and visibility. Some goggles are equipped with anti-fog lens technology, helping keep vision clear while you swim. You can also buy anti-fog spray to maintain this and ensure your goggles are always protected from fog, however, the most common and cheapest solution is to use your own saliva to lick the insides of the goggles right before your swim.

Green Swedish Goggles

Price


The final aspect to consider when choosing the rights goggles for you is price. Like with all buying experiences, you want to get the best value for money, and it can sometimes be a little confusing knowing how much to spend without risking getting a substandard pair of goggles. How much you should spend really depends on how seriously you take your swimming, and whether you feel a more expensive pair of goggles will benefit your swimming experience enough to warrant paying for them. Prices can range from £10 (15USD) to around £30 (50USD) in most places, so even the better quality models won’t cost you a fortune. Having said that, the majority of cheaper goggles will prove to be satisfactory for the casual swimmer.

Note from Swimator Blog: As you already know, it is not easy to choose. Bottom line is, the look of the goggles and the price is not the determining factor you should be focusing on in your choice. More expensive and great looking goggles might not necessarily be better suited for your swim than cheap and simple type. I have tested many goggles in my life, starting from suction cup types, foam type padding, masks and even some very old school Eastern European rubber eye contraptions. And after all those experiences, I have yet to find a better pair of goggles than the cheapest and simplest Swedish goggles. Swim with Swedish goggles. Of course, I come from the competitive background, so I don't suggest you go and buy these Swedish shells, but it at least gives you an idea how everyone is different. Please feel free to share your goggle experiences or disasters in the comments.


Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Dec 19, 2012

Palm Paddle - The world's smallest hand paddle

This post is long overdue, but finally I kicked myself to introduce you to the wonderful world of the Palm Paddle. I am not kidding when I say it is the world's smallest hand paddle. At first sight, the paddles are so tiny and cute that you just want to cuddle them in your palm :). Don't let the small size fool you into thinking that since they are so small, they have little to no purpose for swimming though. On the contrary, as someone famous once said "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind", we could say "one small stroke with the Palm Paddle, one giant leap forward in your swim technique". :).

About 10cm small palm paddles
Many swimming technique articles that are out here in the darkest corners of the Internet focus on the early vertical forearm, the early catch or also called the high elbow technique for freestyle. And rightly so, without mastering this technique, it is tough to become competitive in your field of fellow swimmers or triathletes. However, what is often overlooked is what happens after the catch. Let's assume that you have a very good early catch, so you set yourself up for a great underwater stroke, however, after the initial catch your hand still slips through the water as if you are not pulling any water and you do not move forward as fast as you'd expect.

So what happened? You did have a nice starting catch or in other words, you grabbed a hold of water or yet in other words, you found support in water with your hand and forearm, however, this hold or support disappeared as your stroke progressed. Basically, you lost it somewhere along the underwater stroke. Chances are your hand was not moving in a straight line driving back and deviated quickly to one side causing it to cross under your body and lose your grip on water. Don't despair though, this is very common among swimmers and the Palm Paddle is here to help.

Attach to top tip of  your middle finger
The Palm Paddle is not designed to be put on as a regular paddle would where you'd slip it on your middle finger(s) all the way to the knuckles and then perhaps use another strap to attach it to your wrist. No no no, it only slips on your middle finger passed the first finger joint, so it only hangs on the tip of your finger. This delicate attachment makes sure that if your hand deviates from the straight underwater pull path, the paddle will slip from your hand. Thus causing you to be extra careful with your hand trajectory and teaching you to follow the path were you retain the initial grip on water which you got from the high elbow catch. Isn't it cool? A paddle which will teach you how to properly run your hand through your stroke. Simply amazing. And don't worry, they float, so you won't lose them if they fall off:).

Of course, this is not the only benefit of the Palm Paddle, but it is in my opinion the main one. After you master the underwater pull without loosing the paddles, then you can start discovering the other benefits which are of the "antipaddle" nature. Basically, it makes your hand feel desensitized for the period of time when you swim with the paddles and when you take them off you are better equipped to feel the water in the palm of your hand.

Along a similar idea, since you swim with them, the conical shape makes you actually pull less water, so if you are in a lane with slow swimmers, just put on the paddles and voila, you no longer need to pass the slow pokes since you swim with the same speed while working on your technique or increased stroke rate tempo. Also, if you are recovering from a shoulder injury or surgery, you can use these paddles to lessen the water pressure since your hand slips through the water easier.

Another benefit is the small size. I no longer carry a huge swimming mesh bag with me to practice, I just stick these world's smallest paddles in my pockets and go :). If you are in open water, they can be easily slipped into your swim suit or wet suit for safe keeping while you swim without them. Or if you have already discovered the benefit of using the Safer Swimmer safety device they don't take much space at all, therefore, leaving you a lot of free room for other necessary items you'd like to take with you for a swim.

So, go out there and improve your underwater pull, so you can enjoy the benefits of fast and easy swimming. On another note, if you are still on a hunt for a great swimming related Christmas present, the Palm Paddle or "trilobites" as my swimmers call them :), could be your lucky Christmas winner :).

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Sep 30, 2012

Learn to Swim Backwards Freestyle

There is no doubt in my mind that anyone can learn how to swim and anyone can swim with ease if the right approach to learning is taken. In order to convey a certain feeling or a message to the swimmers and to keep swim workouts interesting, every coach should once in a while think outside the box. Nothing is more boring than doing the same workout routines over and over with only slight variations. So let's spice up your today's swim workout with backwards swimming. I use this technique with my swimmers quite frequently and it always is fun for them to do and definitely fun to watch. In addition to being only fun, it also serves a specific purpose.

First, let's focus on how to swim freestyle backwards (just to clarify, I am talking about swimming on your stomach feet first). The most important advice I can give you here is to attempt to mimick all the aspects of a good freestyle stroke into the backwards swimming. Streamline your body means to keep your legs pointed straight forward and keep your toes together. The pitfall to watch out for here is not to be tempted to kick with the feet. Just trust the water and balance yourself in a very similar way as you would when you do your side kicking exercises. The next thing is to roll your hips as you are suppose to during regular freestyle swimming. Backwards swimming is no exception, you will rotate your body from side to side. So stay away from flat stomach swimming. Another important tip is to keep your head low as if you are pressing your entire chest and head into the water. This will make sure to keep your legs at the surface while you move backwards. Another way to think about it is to try to utilize your lower back and buttocks to keep your legs afloat. This next tip is important. Your arms should not be rotated outwards, instead swim with the top of your hands and forearms. I wasn't kidding when I said it is total backwards freestyle, so even the underwater motion of your arms is just the opposite to what you'd do when swimming regular freestyle. So keep those palms always facing back and use the top of the hands and forearms to propel yourself forward. Maintain nice and long body line by making sure you extend your arms as far forward as possible during your body role. By extending forward with your arms you are adding more weight to the front of your body thus allowing your legs to stay closer to the surface. The last and the most complicated skill to master is the breathing. You need to get good mental understanding about what supports you in the water and how you balance yourself on a side without spreading your legs apart. Without gaining practice in the support and balance skills, you will have a tough time to breathe. Breathing is perfomed in a similar fashion as in freestyle by rotating your head to the side while your top arm is moving backwards to the entry position by the hip. Restrain from breathing backwards, instead press deeper into the water with your front arm and chest and make sure to be roled to the side.

You might think this is a totally useless exercise. However, let's think a bit more about what happens to your body and what you are practicing by swimming backwards. You are forced to rediscover your balance in water, your trust in the water support, your head position during breathing, also your early vertical forearm placement and probably many other things. Finally, you are giving your shoulders a counter force which should make them stronger and healthier in the long run as you exercise both directions (if you don't over do it).

The sets I like to do with backwards freestyle are very short not to stress the shoulders too much. For example 4x25 with 30 seconds rest or 4x50 (25 backwards swim and 25 all out freestyle swim) with 1 minute rest. You will be amazed on how awesome it feels to sprint right after you swam backwards. It's almost as if you had some antipaddles on and then took them off. You should feel very powerful. You can combine the sets with counting how many strokes you take per 25 and then try to minimize that count by improving your backward pull, your breathing and your body position. Or if you are really good at it, why not put on a pair of techpaddles with their wrist straps and do a few laps backwards.

Even though, I only talk about backward freestyle swimming in this post, similar principle can be applied to all the other strokes, however, this is a bit more challenging to master and the benefit is not as high as in the backward freestyle swim. I'd suggest getting accustomed to freestyle backward swimming before going the route to explore other backwards strokes. So go out there, be patient with it and get out of your swimming routines and swim outside the box today. The Rome was not build in a day and the world was not created in 7 days (even though some crazies still believe this in 21st century :)), so getting to understand your body in the water while swimming backwards freestyle takes some time as well. Enjoy.

Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers

Aug 11, 2012

DryCase Review: Mobile Swimming Tips at the Pool (Underwater Angry Birds)

Swimator Blog August 11, 2012 Final rating: 5/5

Whether we like it or not, we live in a fast paced modern technology world where what happened 5 minutes ago is old news. It is very hard to keep up with new information and even harder to distinguish between good and bad information since everybody and their grandmother is online sharing their life and insights with you. Swimming, even though not as fastly evolving as the technology world, it is no exception to the latter problem. How do you know whether the swimming advice a site gives you will help you out? Well, honestly, you do not until you try it out. However, there is another problem. What if you buy a Learn to Swim DVD, study it at home and then go to the pool to only realize you cannot remember the second step in the series of the swimming drill progression discussed on the DVD. Suddenly, your time spent going down the wrong road in terms of the trial and error scenario is increaing thus putting you that much further from achieving your goal of an improved swimming stroke. So why not make your learn to swim efforts as efficient as possible and bring the technology with you to the pool? Introducing the DryCase water resistant cover for your tablets, readers and smartphones.

DryCase, arm strap, headphones, vacuum pump

What is DryCase?

Nowadays when you read the news, you hear iPhone this, iPad that and Android is awesome. We are truly a mobile society. You can also find many different water resistant cases for your particular phone or tablet type, however, what if you switch tablets or phones? Do you need to buy a new water resistant case? That is just not very scalable solution and quite pricey, I might add. The beauty of the DryCase is that it can fit any type of a smartphone or tablet, so it really does not matter if you are in the Apple cult, the Google worship group or perhaps an unfortunate descendant from the Ericsson or Nokia generations. The DryCase waterproof casing is not bias and is platform, manufacturer and even user independent accessory.

How does DryCase work?

The waterproof case is actually quite intuitive to use. There is a headphone jack molded into the side of the case with the inside male jack being plugged into the device and the outside female jack waiting for your waterproof or regular headphones to be inserted. After you insert your hearing aids, slip your device into the case. Then close the top of the case and rotate the two plastic locks, so the casing is tightly sealed (until you feel a click). If you do not want to have any air inside the waterproof case, use the rubber pump which comes with the case to suck all the air out and create sort of a vaccuum seal around your device. This makes sure your mobile product is nicely snug in the casing and is not moving around.

You can also order waterproof headphones with your DryCase. They have an adjustable ear piece in terms of direction, so you can be sure to maneuver the earpiece to your liking. If you have small or big ear holes you are in luck as you will also get different ear fittings with the DryCase headphones. The headphones fit very nicely underneath the cap, so they stay on even if you do some faster swimming.

How can I use DryCase?


1) Scared of being in the water? - Why not put on some mellow relaxing music to eliminate the loud noises of a swimming hall and to make you more comfortable in the water. Having a familiar tune occupy your brain while being in the water does wonders to your sometimes unreasonable and unrealistic pre-meditated fears. There is no reason to buy any fancy underwater mp3 players for this purpose, just use your already purchased mobile phone or tablet.

My iPhone in the DryCase
2) Working on your technique or other swimming skills? - Even though the DryCase is not the most aerodynamic piece of equipment, it is still possible to swim with it during slower swimming, especially if you perform swimming drills. So, it makes swimming that much more interesting. Same as above, music or a coach's instructions in your ear do wonders for your focus and motivation. At the same time though, you can check the exact movements or exercises you should do next via Youtube or your favorite swimming source. There lies the real power of the DryCase.

3) Don't waste paper and take workouts with you to the pool on your mobile device :). Many swimmers and coaches bring sheets of paper with workouts on them and distrubute them to the swimmers to put on the pool wall. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do this via our mobile devices. Each pool wall would have a tablet where you could select the workout for the day or upload a workout via a web application. Imagine all the trees saved :). There is a product out there similar to this called Swimtag, but I would prefer to take my own mobile device with me.

4) Coaching and need mobile access? - If you are a coach, the DryCase comes with a strap that could be put around your neck, so you can have your mobile device protected from water as well as accessible at any time to record notes, take videos etc. etc. You no longer have to worry about slipping into the water or the swimmers joyfully pushing you in with your unprotected phone or tablet in your pocket :). Enjoy the wetness to the fullest.

5) Underwater video shoot - How about taking your underwater camera down with you in the DryCase and shooting some swimming videos for later analysis by a coach. There is no reason to buy a special underwater camera if you can just get a waterproof case to secure and protect your regular camera. You can even stream them live to your coach or friends.

Bonus:
Angry Birds on Facebook
Another hot topic in the news for the last year or so is the Finnish based game company Rovio with its world famous game Angry Birds. Games in general are a hot mobile endeavor, so for the hard core gamers who cannot stay away, taking the games with them to a hot tub, spa, shower or a bath is priceless. To my ignorant dismay, I just found out that the screen on my iPhone actually does not work under the water as there needs to be some electrical field present which obviously is not in the water. So, let's just say I was disappointed that I couldn't defeat the vicious pigs in the Angry Birds game down under, but when I came to the surface, I showed them what the now really angry birds were made of. This has nothing to do with the DryCase design, it is just a feature of the iPhone screen displays.


Summary: Pros and Cons

The DryCase waterproof casing for your tablet and your smartphone is very good at its job. It protects the device and prevents the water from coming in. It brings the world wide web and entertainment with you to the pool, so your swimming improvements can come faster. It can be used for many purposes in the water during recreational swimming or any recreational water based activity. Since the casing is a bit too large, it is not the most ideal case for competitive swim training in terms of speed as it creates quite a bit of drag. I tried it on the arm, on the waist and under the swimming cap, all of which are not very good locations for faster swimming. If you are after listening to music while you swim, there are better solutions out there. Don't have a tablet or a smartphone? No problem. Take your Kindle to a shower with you or give your child's favorite book a waterproofing solution it deserves. DryCase can literally hold it all.

Pros:
  • fits most standard size mobile devices
  • allows for headphone access
  • easy to use and put on
  • good price from $39.99 or on Amazon for cheaper
Cons:
  • not really for fast swimming
  • headphones should be wireless
Final rating: 5/5

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Jul 6, 2012

How to Help your Kids Enjoy Summer Swimming

The northern hemisphere is now experiencing a very hot beginning to what looks like to be a great summer season. With that, millions of kids and adults flock to local swimming pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, or oceans, but unfortunately swimming is not much fun for those unlucky individuals how have not gained a proper water support skill. Amy Carson from Hapari Swimwear will give us a few tips on how we can make sure our kids enjoy their swimming summer to the fullest.
Water fun by lomography.com

Enter Amy:
Kids love the water, especially on a hot day. Whether it’s a lawn sprinkler, water balloon fights, or a neighborhood backyard pool party you want your kids to have fun and stay safe. Take the proper precautions so that everyone will have a great time.

Swimming Lessons

Put your child in a swim class. This will help them learn to swim before the summer comes and also teach them to respect the power of water. Check with your local community center about what kinds of classes are available. Make sure that the instructor is a certified lifeguard as well. A variety of classes may be offered. Determine what kind of class will best help you kids to learn all they can about swimming.

Start early if you can and get your baby familiar with the swimming pool atmosphere. As your children grow up they will be ready to enjoy themselves and better understand swimming techniques. Give them the opportunity to participate in swim meets and competitions for more access to the water.

Safety Is Very Important

Make sure that your children know about swimming pool rules. If they run they could slip and hit their head. If they go into the deep end without training or adult supervision they could drown. A skilled lifeguard is on duty for a reason. Your child needs to obey them or they could be removed from the water and from the pool area altogether. Help you kids understand that there are rules so they can stay safe and have fun at the same time.

Summer lake swims are the best
If you’re taking the kids to the beach or spending a week at an ocean resort set some water rules. Sit down with your kids before they put a toe in the water and discuss the dangers and ways to stay safe. Apply sunscreen liberally, make them wear proper floatation devices, and never let them swim alone. Help your children understand proper hygiene and to never drink sea or pool water.

Pool Parties and Water Games

Summer is a great time of year to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. If it involves water then that adds to the fun. You can invest in water noodles, boogie boards, and inner tubes. For the older kids you could set up a volleyball net for some very active water sports, or even host a best dive or cannonball contest.

If you don’t live near the beach then take the kids to the water parks in your area. These fun places have wading pools and water slides that will keep the kids happy in the hot sun. Be safe and have fun with your kids in the water this summer.

Note from Swimator Blog: Some of the above advice is very obvious to a seasoned water goer, but as simple as it may seem, many do not realize the benefits of such summer preparation for your kids. So let your kids have fun, eliminate their fear and prepare them better to be safe around and in the water. Even though summer is here in the northern world, it is not too late. As they say: "better late then never".

This is a guest post by Amy Carson from Salt Lake City, Utah who loves her job at Hapari Swimwear and lives life to the fullest.

Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers

Jun 7, 2012

How Can You Perk Up Swim Practice With Garmin 910xt?

There comes time in everyone's swimming endeavor when you are a bit lost and not sure what to do next. Sometimes, just getting yourself some new technological gadget can help you on your way to further improvements. (note: not all gadgets are helpful though, so beware). There are many statistics that you can track and attempt to improve upon. Some of them include stroke rate, stroke length, tempo etc. Kathrine, an avid user of Garmin 910xt watch computer will tell us more about how it can be used in swimming to help improve your stroke.
Garmin 910xt computer


Enter Kathrine
Ever since I was six years old, my father took me with him each afternoon to the nearby swimming pool. And as I grew, so did my fondness for swimming. When I turned 20, I got a sports gadget as a Christmas Gift from my cousin, and here I would like to share my experience and add to your knowledge of how it can make you more productive at your swim routine.

Garmin 910xt is a Sports Watch that is specifically made for people who love swimming and want to channelize their exercises in different sports domains. For years, it has helped me boost performance at swimming competitions and practice sessions.

Precise measurement for attributes like swim stroke recognition, distance, pool lengths and stroke count matter a lot when you want to improve each day. Beside these, data unit can also compute pace, distance, heart rate and elevation. Swolf (swim golf) score is calculated based on number of strokes taken per lap and the time it takes me to complete a lap. With these parameters on display I can easily analyze my swimming training efficiency.

We are a product of tech generation and we yearn for connectivity in everything. Through real time satellite connectivity, I transfer my swim data to my personal computer and analyze it later to set more targeted and realistic goals, usually when at night, for me. Though I don’t use it, but USB transfer of data is also supported to upload and download user statistics.

I am not really fond of this next feature, but you can use Garmin Connect TM to develop swim plans, upload performance data, analyze it, ask for expert opinion, interact with other users, customize settings and much more. Performance can be viewed in tabular format and comparison can be made with previous swim laps, and also have the option to view it in graphical form by plotting related attributes against one another. The Garmin 910xt claims a battery life of up to 20 hours, but honestly, I usually forget to switch it off and end up having a quite lesser battery life.

What a great display by samwebster
What I absolutely love about Garmin 910xt is that I can switch between sports modes (with separate settings for each) with a single button touch. Usability of the device for me would have been reduced a great deal if it was only useful for swimming. With customizable data fields I can personalize training pages for swimming and other sports activities (but that only happens on weekends for me). There is no other device that combines so many attributes for swimmers, and let them have greater command over their fitness and health stats.

It was quite later in years, when I paired accelerometers with it to count swim strokes. Although the watch is water resistant up to 50 m (164 ft), there is another side of the story. It will not be able to measure your heart rate while it is submerged in water. Comfort counts a lot (at least for me) and thanks to heavens; it has a smooth profile and a comfortable wristband.

Depending on my mood or that day's training need, I adjust it easily for open water and pool setting. Then if I opt for open water, Garmin 910xt produces average stroke distance over a swim or between splits; and in case of pool it divides distance-per-stroke to individual lap and thus generates an ideal measure for pacing.

You can pick from two models, one is the watch only version while the other comes paired with a heart rate monitor; currently I am still using the watch one, but would love to use the HRM one sometime too. There are so many ways in which you can boost your performance in multiple domains like me. Have a happy swim!

This is a guest post by Kathrine Switzer (@KathrineSwitzer) a professional cyclist who in her spare time follows her passion and contributes to numerous health and fitness blogs with her fitness watch insights.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Apr 24, 2012

Breaststroker's Knee: 3 Tips to Avoid It

Do you swim breaststroke every time you have a workout? If you do, perhaps it is time to start learning other strokes and give your knees a bit of a rest. I know quite a few competitive breaststroke swimmers who did not train properly during their younger years and now suffer from knee pains during their favorite stroke, so don't become and statistics :). Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University, will share with you a few tips on how to prevent the breaststroker's knee syndrome, so you don't become like the swimmers I mentioned earlier.

Breaststroke kick on back
Enter Jenna:
While swimming is certainly one of the most physically taxing of all the major sports out there, many non-competitive swimmers don't understand the stress that swimming can put on our bodies. It is by no means a sport void of injury. Quite to the contrary actually, there are a number of common injuries brought on by different swimming strokes. Here we will explore one of the most common of these injuries, and offer potential ways to avoid the annoyance of have to deal with it.

Breaststroker's knee is a common swim injury that many swimmers unfortunately have to deal with at some point in their career. Generally speaking, the injury is a result of two particular phases in the mechanics of the breaststroke. First, the whip kick of the stroke stretches out the medial ligament repeatedly in the knee. Then, when the legs are brought back together after the extension, during the propulsive phase of the kick the knee is subject to extreme external rotation. As our knees were not designed specifically for these motions, over time they can wear on the medial collateral ligament mentioned before. But, there are a few good ways to avoid this injury.

Alternating Strokes

By alternating swimming strokes, swimmers can put less repeated, direct strain on the knees and medial ligaments. This can obviously be beneficial to the knee, and can also help keep up practice with your other strokes.

Lengthy Breaks

If your knee is beginning to bother you, try avoiding the breaststroke for as long a period as possible. With enough time, the ligaments can recuperate and rehabilitate themselves if left alone. If possible, try splitting your strokes up by different months or other lengths of time throughout the year.

Knee hot/cold therapy wrap from betterbraces.com

Out of Pool Support/Stretching

Much like soccer braces used by soccer players for knee injuries, there are different braces designed specifically for swimmers to be worn outside the pool, and sometimes even inside the pool, that can be helpful for problematic knees. Also important to consider is the matter of stretching before and after swimming. This can greatly reduce your risk of injury and keep your body limber and prepared for each swim workout.

No matter what your favorite stroke is, swimmers do deal with various injuries. Maintaining proper stretching and workout techniques is an especially vital part of staying healthy. Consult your doctor if you feel you may have any serious swimming-related injuries before getting back in the pool. Stay safe and enjoy.

From Swimator Blog: Chances are you don't swim far enough and often enough with breaststroke to worry about your knees, however, if you do, it is definitely good idea to break it up a little. Do not swim your entire workout with breaststroke, but instead get creative and compose your workouts accordingly. You will prevent an injury before it is too late and have much more fun while swimming when you incorporate more strokes into it.

This is a guest post by Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, she hopes to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn't writing, you can find Jenna with her nose in a book, or her headphones in to block out the rest of the world.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Apr 17, 2012

From the Swim Bag: Win a swim cap, design your swim suit and more

I get a lot of different emails from swimmers, people who'd like to swim, swimming companies and other fitness organizations asking interesting questions, promoting their products and services. Some of them are too good to be lost and forgotten in my inbox, so I decided to start sharing the more useful information on the Swimator Blog. Introducing "From the Swim Bag", a semi-regular round up of curated swimming information.

April's "From the Swim Bag" edition is below:


Swimator Blog custom swim suit

Design your own Swimwear with Finis

It is not an every day thing to buy a swim suit, especially if it is customized to your liking. However, as it is with other clothing and accessories, fashion does not sleep and swimming is no other, so why not create a swim suit based on your desires.

FINIS, a swimming equipment company, just launched a new product: The Custom Swimwear Design Studio! which will let all the swimming enthusiasts out there to design a unique swim suit, drag suit or swimming cap. With easy step by step instruction, it is easy as one to three to have a newly fashioned swim suit designed shipped to you. Check out the quickly put together Swimator Blog suit design. You can let your imagination run wild.

Win a free swimming cap

There is an opportunity to win a free swimming cap on our Facebook page. When the fan count reaches 300 a drawing will be made out of the last 20 Likes and one lucky swimmer will receive a free swimming cap. At the time of this writing, there are only 3 spots left, so hurry up and become a fan.

Sedentary job is a killer

To keep up with the swimming for health trend of this blog, I figured it was very appropriate to post the following statistics about our sedentary job.

Work Is Murder - why not go for a swim

This does not apply only to Americans, but most developed countries in the world. Why couldn't swimming be an answer to the problem? Go for a 30 minute swim during a lunch break or jump into your local swimming hole for a quick dip after work. Do not become a statistic and learn to enjoy swimming.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Apr 16, 2012

Thanks to Signs, You Can Just Keep Swimming

No matter if we like it or not, we live in the world of signs. Traffic signs on the street, grocery signs in the supermarket, direction signs at the airports and for us more importantly rule signs at a swimming pool. One wouldn't think much about the signs in the last group, however, believe it or not, they are a key ingredient to a well functional pool facility and to enjoyable swimming experience. Suman, a lifelong aficionado of swimming, is here to bring more awareness and understanding of pool signs.
Pool depth sign (in Finnish, but everyone understands)

Enter Suman:
Consider these situations: you’re learning how to swim at the pool and find yourself in a pocket of water deeper than you wanted. You can’t concentrate on getting your laps in because a pool visitor brought his barking dog, or you slip on a Big Mac wrapper lying on the wet ground. Pool facility regulators must do what they can from preventing new swimmers from going off the deep end. Promoting rules, especially through strategically placed swimming pool signs, can make all the difference.

Like driving, swimming is an activity that requires people to be completely present, so there is no wonder that pool signs are utilized in a supportive and instructional manner. Clearly understandable signs help turn the pool into an amazing fully functional organism. Hundreds of people get in and out of pools and none of them would for example want to use public pools where people don’t shower or rinse off beforehand, which is why the signs require swimmers to shower before entering.

Pool rules signs also help to monitor what people can’t/shouldn't bring into swimming areas. For example, food, beverages, and tobacco products are generally prohibited, and apart from guide animals, pets are usually not allowed as well. Since these are public pools, everyone should do their part to keep swimming pools enjoyable places to be, so please obey the signs :).

When it comes to swimming, every inch or foot makes a difference. Shallow waters about three feet deep (~1 meter) are good for wading, relaxing, or swimming with infants or small children. However, that depth is definitely not ideal for jumping or diving, so it’s important to pay attention to 3ft (~1m) pool depth markers. In-ground pools are usually about five feet (~1,5m) deep, so they are a bit safer when it comes to diving in, but still the depth markers are needed for the new swimmers who should test how they feel at different depths, whether it’s three or six feet (~1-1,5m).

No Diving
It’s also crucial that divers know some ground rules before diving, since it can be a riskier activity than swimming. It’s all too easy for someone to jump into waters that are too shallow and injure themselves, striking their head or their legs on the pool bottom or side. No diving signs and other diving rules signs set the ground rules for swimmers to follow, from alerting others of shallow waters with no diving or urging people not to jump or push people into the water. Caution & warning no diving signs will save lives and stop injuries by commanding people to prevent drowning by watching their children or not to dive in an above-ground pool. Apart from fatalities, a dive that’s too steep can result in a broken neck and paralysis. As some of the signs say, "If in doubt, don’t dive!" (from Swimator Blog: An injury sustained from diving into shallow water is very very common, my brother for example had his shoulder dislocated after hitting the bottom too hard during one of our child games at our pool, so do not take this lightly.)

Since swimming is one of the most fun activities possible, that does not mean it is always safe. People must be on their guard. It is all too easy to get into an accident, slip and fall, or inconvenience others. In addition to our heroic lifeguards, swimming pool signs make sure

If you are a swimming facility manager or owner, please make sure your signs have been installed in your pool area as a support system to enjoy swimming or water play. If you are not sure where to start, why not for example check out an online store such as SwimmingPoolSigns.com which will provide you with a guidance on what type of materials and texture to consider. For example, aluminum signs are great allies because they withstand water spray, rust, weather, and abrasion. Or how about choosing signs which are skid-resistant and adhere to most surfaces instead of slippery. Many online shops also provide custom templates, so you as a swimming pool operator can create rules which fit your specific needs. So as you see, getting the appropriate rules arsenal for your swimming pool is quite simple, so make your pools safe.

From Swimator Blog: You may not even realize it, but more than likely you always check out at least one pool rule sign before beginning a swim to see if you are complying with pool procedures. Be it something you spot in the showers, around the pool or the signs which tell you the speed of swimmers in particular lanes. Next time you are in the pool, just pay attention and you will see that I am right. Better yet, why don't you count how many signs you encounter in your local pool during the next visit and share your count with us. It will be interesting to see how signs rule the pool :).

This guest post is contributed by Suman Sridhar, a lifelong aficionado of swimming. She is a content writer for SwimmingPoolSigns.com, a SmartSign site.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Apr 9, 2012

Swimming and Medical Infections (The dangers of dirty water)

Let's step away from swimming strokes, discussions of equipment and other learn to swim related material for a moment and look at the scarier side of swimming. Not many of us realize this, but apart from drowning, it is possible to catch a disease or infection from you local swimming hole. And I am not talking about a foot fungus from the shower floor or the unwashed sauna. Marina Salisbury, an experienced writer, is here to enlighten us about the dangers that lurk in the dark depths of our swimming pools and open water spots. Ok, that was a bit too dramatic as this article is not meant to scare you and by no means, keep you from pursuing this great sport, but it does not hurt to know what is out there to get you :).
Dirty swimming pools can cause nasty infections

Enter Marina:
Every summer, many people all around the world choose to spend their hot days splashing in the water. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that swimming is the third most popular recreational activity in the United States; it is also the most popular recreational activity among children. However, not everything is so hunky dory. All water-goers risk exposure to recreational water illnesses (RWI), which are caused by germs that live in contaminated water. These have been found in both man-made structures (such as swimming pools, hot tubs and water parks) and outdoor areas (such as rivers, lakes and oceans).

Many swimmers assume that pools treated with chlorine and other chemicals are less likely to make them sick. Even though, this is probably true CDC still warns that certain diseases thrive in environments like this. Cryptosporidium (or Crypto), which is considered the leading cause of pool-related diarrheal illness, will survive for days in even a well-maintained pool. From 2004 to 2008, reported cases of this disease in the U.S. increased by 200 percent; some experts theorize the Crypto germs have developed a tolerance to chlorine over the years. Another swimming pool risk is the infectious liver disease, Hepatitis A. This virus can contaminate pools if there is any sudden rise in the local raw sewage level—which can occur anywhere after a heavy rainstorm. Though healthy chlorine levels will drastically reduce the risk of contamination, the CDC reported in 2010 that 1 in 8 public American pools were closed after failed chlorine level inspections.

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa according to the ICD-9 medical coding platform, is another infection, which can be obtained through swimming. Though a high temperature is known to kill many forms of bacteria in water, hot tubs are no safer than swimming pools; in fact, EHA Consulting Group, Inc. reports that heat may break down chemicals in the water and hamper their ability to disinfect. A common jacuzzi-related disease is Pseudomonas, which can produce swimmer’s ear, as well as a skin rash commonly known as "hot tub folliculitis." Even healthy individuals are vulnerable to the rash, which resembles chicken pox. Another potential threat to spa-goers is Norwalk Virus, which has been recently linked to several cruise ship outbreaks. This disease can be transmitted via human contact in setting such as hot tubs and spas. Naegleriasis and Acanthamoebiasis are free-living organisms that enter the human body through the nasal mucosa—and are known to cause corneal infections in hot tubs (especially for those who wear soft contact lenses).

Many miniature dangers await in open water
Many diseases that have been linked to public pools have also been found in the wild. One of these crossover diseases is Giardiasis, a protozoan infection with a notorious reputation among hikers. The disease is typically transmitted through oral consumption of contaminated water, and infected individuals can experience severe abdominal cramps, frequent diarrhea and weight loss for as long as three weeks. Giardiasis can be found in both stagnant and running water—so physicians warn outdoor enthusiasts to never drink from rivers. What does this mean for swimming? Try to eliminate getting water in your mouth, so take a breath well above the water line. Those who swim in areas adjacent to farms or agricultural facilities risk exposure to Leptospirosis, or Weir Fever. The disease is typically transferred into the water via livestock waste; symptoms include fever, chills, jaundice and skin hemorrhages. Finally, North American swimmers are susceptible to E. Coli, a disease-causing organism that is thought to cause 90 percent of diarrhea-related hemolytic uremic syndrome, which causes renal failure and poses particular risk to children. E. Coli is spread through contaminated drinking and swimming water (many physicians urge people not to drink from fountains at public pools).

Those who travel worldwide are advised to take precautions in regard to swimming, especially in third world nations. Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasitic snails, which enter the body either through the anal cavity or the urethra. Though these organisms have not been linked to any serious health problems in North America, they thrive in standing bodies of water located in tropical countries. Serious infection can lead to erosion of the digestive tract and colorectal cancer. Another threat is Dracunculiasis, a worm that enters the human body as a larva, matures parasitically and eventually releases offspring once the infected individual enters the water again. Today, this condition is only reported in 13 sub-Saharan African nations.

As countless number of adults and children flock to the local public pools and swimming holes, they are encouraged to take a second look at their surroundings. If any unsanitary conditions are detected, then the swimming area should probably be avoided. Nobody wants to spend valuable summer days hunched over a toilet—or linked to an IV in the emergency room.

From Swimator Blog: So there you have it. There definitely are some scary things with big names in the waters :). While you think you are stroking your way to better health and condition, you might unknowingly contract one of the infections mentioned above and spend a few days or weeks squeezing it out :). Even though, in my opinion it is probably quite unlikely you will ever catch anything from the water you swim in, it is always good to understand the risks and as Marina pointed out, use your common sense when going out for a swim. If you see a dead rat in your swimming pond, this might probably be a good sign to get it checked out or to hop for a swim into some other body of water.

As they say, what does not kill you only makes you stronger :), so get out there and appreciate every stroke, live life to the fullest and eat your dessert first. You never know what might happen.

This is a guest post by Marina Salsbury who planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the web about everything from education to exercise.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Apr 1, 2012

Learn to swim without water with HYBAC

This is quite amazing. Learning to swim without water? Wow, I did not think I'd live to see the day. Russian scientists from the Vladivostok's Institute for Marine Research came up with a groundbreaking invention called the HYBAC ("Hydrobaric chamber"). HYBAC is a machine which mimics the water environment with all of its unique properties. Now that is insane.
HYBAC in its beauty (photo by: AP/Wide World Photos)

The invention is a large circular cube where a normal person comfortably fits into. The chamber has mirrors all over the inner walls, so the subject can have clear view of themselves at all times. Special air vents are placed all around the horizontal and vertical lines on each wall. The air vents continuously pump in special nano particles which if reflected by the mirrors cause the air to gain its water like properties. By all water like properties I mean that it is for example 800 times denser in the cubicle than outside, so a person can easily float as if in the water or in zero gravity field. Of course, the air is not breathable, so a mask has to be wore at all times. The front air vents can be adjusted to pump in stronger currents of the nano particles, so the HYBAC chamber creates sort of a swimming flume like effect.

This HYBAC nano technology was originally created to test different scuba diving materials to allow the human body to be submerged into greater depths without the use of any underwater vehicles/submarines, however, I am sure you can now see the huge potential for swimming far beyond the original intended scuba diving use. Since the inside of the hydrobaric chamber feels like water without water, it is possible for the unfortunate individuals who suffer from fear of water (hydrophobia) to safely practice their body movements without actually being in water or for skilled swimmers perfect their body positions without any other distractions.

HYBAC nano air vent (image by freepatentsonline.com)
Let me explain it a bit differently. Many people struggle in the water because they are not able to fully relax and let go, for whatever reason. If a human is placed inside the HYBAC chamber where the water element is removed, after the initial shock of floating in a very thick air, he/she can relax as it is impossible to fall, to drown, to choke on water or to get water in the nose. All of which usually cause the swimmer to not fully relax and not fully allow the water support. Another huge problem is that many swimmers try to swim over top of the water and not through it. This causes the swimmers upper body being lifted over the surface of the water while the legs are dragging way down below the surface. Not the most aerodynamic of positions, let me tell you. One other problem in swimming is that the swimming movement is so complex it requires a synchrony of many body parts and body motions to make it all work, so it is very hard to focus only on improving one little thing. In the HYBAC hydrobaric chamber, there is no reason to swim on top of anything as everywhere it is the same and there is no reason to focus on all the body movements at one time, so the swimmer can easily position the body in a nice horizontal line and maintain it while stroking away.

Inspection by the Russian officials (image by iwm.org.uk)
Pavel Vladimir Apriliovic (depicted in the image above), one of the Russian scientist responsible for the HYBAC chamber invention says that they have already received bids for purchases from the Russian, Australian, British and American Swimming Federation bodies. However, he mentioned that there is only one hydrobaric chamber for sale at this moment in time and it will take at least another year to produce the next sister HYBAC chamber. So there will be an auction held in Vladivostok at the end of May and the highest bidder will go home with a new tool in their swimming improvement arsenal. This comes at an interesting time with the onset of the 2012 London Olympic swimming fever.

Ok, perhaps you have already started to smell something fishy in the article. Happy April Fools to everyone:). Unfortunately, I am afraid there is no HYBAC and you are stuck with the water and with the tedious learning of the intricacies it brings with it :). Keep up the good work. If you get over the initial learning curve, be consistent and persistent, you will soon learn to appreciate and even enjoy being in the water.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Mar 26, 2012

Swimsuit Tips for Leisure Swimming

Swimming is a great sport in terms of the equipment you need to use. One only needs a swimsuit, perhaps a pair of goggles and a swimming cap. Great simplicity, isn't it? Apart from that, you do not need a thing. When I was very young, I tried out for an ice hockey team and made it as a goalie, however, our financial situation in the deep communist times was not that great (let's just say we didn't sit well with the system:)), so I was put into swimming instead. One dollar swimsuit, no goggles and that was it. Easy decision as one, two, three :). However, in today's consumer driven world, the decision is not as simple. Top competitive swimsuits cost hundreds of dollars, though probably still cheaper than buying all the ice hockey padding, but nevertheless not cheap. Furthermore, there are so many choices of swimsuits to choose from, let me just say I am so glad I am not a fashionable lady or a guy from Sweden :). If you are into fashion as well as into practicality and are contemplating buying a new swimsuit for your workout routines or just for leisurely swims, you are in luck. Susan from In Style Swimwear will share with you some important tips which you should keep in mind when choosing your next swimsuit.
Fashionable, yet practical swim suit

Enter Susan:
Attention ladies! Are you considering taking up swimming? Not only is swimming a great full body workout, but it’s fun too! Whether you’re planning to join a masters swim team or simply looking to spice up your workout routine, the first thing you’ll need is a new swimsuit.

When you’re shopping around, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the wide variety of styles on the market. As a swimwear industry insider, I’ll be the first to admit that many swimsuit styles are not very practical when it comes to active or competitive swimming; a number of swimsuit styles are considered to be "for show" and are more about being fashion-forward than functional. However, there is a way to combine the functionality and also look fashionable. After reading this post, we hope you’ll know what to look for when shopping for your new hobby.

Always look for swimsuits with high Lycra Spandex counts

As a rule of thumb, the higher the Lycra Spandex count, the more the swimsuit will stretch and suck you in, helping to streamline your swimming. You want to find a swimsuit that hugs close to your body so nothing interferes with your swimming, thus keeping your strokes fluid, efficient and graceful.
Great for the swim as well as for the beach

Straps are your best friend

Always look for a swimsuit in a one-piece silhouette. Classic one-piece swimsuits tend to have two shoulder straps and will help give you the support you need. Avoid bandeau or strapless swimsuit styles, as these are more likely to fall down during mid-stroke! While you’re swimming, a blooper is the last thing you want to worry about :).

Support the girls

Finally, if you’re a bit bigger up top, you may need some extra support while swimming. Swimsuit styles that have underwire support, molded cups and/or shelf bras provide the best bust support. Think of these styles as your underwire sports bra. If you’re looking for speed and to beat the competition, skip the molded cups and look for a swimsuit with just an underwire shelf bra.

We’ll leave you with one final tip: Always wash your swimsuit after every wear. Extended chlorine exposure can actually break down the Lycra Spandex and ruin the overall durability of your swimsuits. Happy swimming!

This is a guest post by Susan Bodack who is a blogger for Beauty and the Beach, a swimsuit and fashion blog by InStyleSwimwear.com.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Mar 21, 2012

What hand paddles should I use?

Let me stop you right there, let's ask a better question: what do I need paddles for? If your answer to this question is "I don't know, everyone else is using them" or "I feel more powerful with paddles" or "I swim faster with paddles" or something along those lines, then chances are you should keep wondering what paddles you should use for a bit longer. If you do not, chances are that the current paddles you are using or the paddles you will purchase will do more damage to your stroke and your body than they will do good. You will not have any benefit from them, except maybe thinking you are swimming faster or that you were clever to spice up your swim workouts to be less boring.
The confusing world of swimming hand paddles

Paddles are actually an advanced piece of swimming gear which should only be used by swimmers either with correct technique or by swimmers working on improving specific part of their stroke. So if you find yourself asking a question like "what paddles should I use?", then just save yourself the hassle of going down the cul de sac and of wasting your money. You are better of focusing on improving your stroke through some other means such as body positioning drills, proper kicking etc. However, if you are still wondering what paddles are for and whether you need them, let's explore the idea of what swim paddles to use and for what.

There are literally hundreds of different types of paddles including plain square pieces of plastic with holes in them, more sophisticated palm molded paddles, paddles with vertical protrusions, finger paddles, humongous sprint paddles, backstroke forearm paddles, or antipaddles. There are also many sizes, ranging from small teeny weeny paddles which barely fit into the palm of your hand to crazy looking ores many times bigger than your hand. So no wonder many people out there just blindly follow the trends of what equipment they see the top athletes using, not realizing that the top athletes have mostly different needs in terms of hand paddles as someone that is just starting out with a triathlon or pool swimming.

Majority of the paddles are just simply pieces of plastic which have no other purpose, except to make your palm larger, therefore making you exert more strength throughout your pull. Note: this does not mean that the stronger you pull, the faster you will go. Nowadays, these plastic molds have some sort of holes in them to allow water properly stimulate your palm during the usage, so at least some feeling for water is retained after the swimmer takes the paddles off. In the old days, this was not so, the paddles hand no holes, so the difference between swimming with paddles and without was a bit more radical which was more than likely also causing more shoulder injuries. Personally, I don't recommend extended use of these paddles to anyone unless their stroke is up to par with being efficient and effective, otherwise it is just painful to watch :). A swimmer who has no control over the way arms/hands move under the water should stay away. On the other hand, using these paddles once in a while as a sort of a checkpoint how you are doing might not be a bad idea. Especially, if you follow the competitive swimmer landscape and only use the middle finger strap on the paddles. Usually, these paddles come with a wrist and finger strap. The finger strap is the important part, the wrist strap, just get rid off it ;). By getting rid off the wrist band, you have to make sure that your hand enters the water correctly and that your hand also travels through the water correctly not deviating from almost straight line going backwards. If you have trouble with the stroke technique, chances are the paddles will slip off at the hand entry or during the pull, so this is a good indication whether you are improving or not. If you do for some reason want to power through the water with these types of paddles, be sensible and buy the smaller pairs or your shoulders will regret it later. Furthermore, do not swim with hand paddles your entire workout. Add a set here and there and don't swim with them every day.
What a mess :)

Smaller subset of the paddle family are paddles specifically design to improve your technique. These are the paddles that anybody could benefit from and unfortunately are not considered cool to buy as the simple pieces of plastic. Smart swimmers utilize these types of hand paddles the most. I've already mentioned couple of these technique oriented paddles in my previous posts. The TechPaddle for improving your early vertical forearm motion, in other words, for grabbing more water during your pull. And the Antipaddles to help you with better water perception. I'd definitely recommend the use of these paddles on almost daily basis until your stroke feels right. There is also another set of paddles which I just found online which will do wonders for your underwater pull, but I'll leave that for a next post ;).

In addition to using the regular plastic paddles for all the strokes, there are also paddles specific to individual stroke. Breaststroke paddles are usually tiny triangle like pieces which attach and support only your fingers. They allow you to utilize your hands early, so you can start your catch sooner. Because of their small size, they also put less pressure on your shoulders. Backstroke paddles which span from your fingers to your elbow, covering your forearm, allowing you to focus on better catch. Sprint freestyle paddles with the front part of the paddle bent in an angle down, allowing you to get into the catch much sooner than with regular flat paddles. Freestyle paddles with a vertical piece of plastic for helping you get rid off the thumb first entry into the water. etc. etc.

Finally, there are hand paddles which look more like gloves than paddles with membranes between fingers, so they are not really called paddles. However, they serve very similar purpose in terms of increasing the surface area of your palm. If you are struggling with the proper finger/palm relaxation in the water, in other words, if your hand is too tight or fingers are spread too far apart, the glove paddles actually do wonders for this problem. There are a few kinds, ranging from neoprene to rubber material and from finger tips cut off to full-blown gloves. I am not a big fan of the gloves where the fingertips are cut off as it does not feel natural having the water enter the glove every time you push off the wall or put hand into the water. If you are going to choose this type of glove, use the full-blown glove with no openings at the fingers and as thin of a material as you can find. I got my hands on a set of interesting gloves which are mainly used for ocean water sports, however, they can be totally utilized for swimming as well, so a review of these will come to your computer screen near you very soon.

So as you can see, the paddle family is a very complicated beast and there is no wonder a lot of swimmers are confused. It is much easier to follow a faulty trend than to spend the time and research what is good for me. This of course does not only pertain to paddles, swim suits are in the same boat. The bottom line is, if you really really want to get you some paddles and you have no other thing you'd rather buy with your money, then go for it, but choose wisely. Because swimming with the wrong paddles with the wrong stroke is like lifting heavy things from the ground using your back instead of using your legs and we all know how that can cause some serious back pains. If on the other hand, I managed to convince you that you do not need to invest into hand paddles, but you would still like to buy something, get the front mounted snorkel instead.

TIP: there are more exercises you can do with paddles than what they were originally made for, check out the 8 ways to use hand paddles post to learn more.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Mar 12, 2012

Water Revival: How to Swim Your Way To Recovery

We tend to view swimming as another way to exercise, so we often forget that water and swimming have also health benefits outside of the regular workout routines. Sarah, a certified yoga instructor, is here to tell us about how the water can revive your body and how to swim your way to recover from an injury.
Recover from injury in water

Enter Sarah:
I have been an avid exerciser since the age of 16. I have been able to stay healthy and fit because of my active lifestyle. So you can imagine my dismay when I was told I had a tear in my ACL. When my doctor told me that I needed to take an 8-10 week break from yoga, hiking, biking and dancing I thought I would die. Exercise is my hobby, my spiritual connection, my anti-depressant and my anti-anxiety defense. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to hang out with me on a day that I don't get my 2 hours of exercise in. Quitting was not an option so I learned to glean the benefits of swimming. Like yoga, swimming is a full body experience. It improves your cardiovascular system, strengthens your muscles, promotes flexibility, and improves your posture. Fear not injured friends; the couch is not your only option while recovering.

A lot of the damage done to my knee was due to the excessive high impact exercises I did every day. So walking, running and dancing above water are not an option during the recovery process. A sudden twist or turn can shoot insurmountable pain up your leg. But avoiding all movement weakens the muscles that surround the joints. Water is almost 800x denser than air so it protects the knee from quick movements that could further damage the knee, no other exercise gives you this protection.

In my recovery treatment I have notice my physical therapist gradually increasing the weight and reps in the exercises I do. When recovering from your injury it's important that you are moving at a steady pace so that you can work toward strengthening the support of the joint while avoiding re-injury to the vulnerable area. Swim exercises function to stabilize the knee and build strength around it. You start easy and work your way up.

The exercises I've mentioned below pertain to knee rehab, although many of them would work for other lower body injuries, such as ankle or hip. But no matter what's going on in your body, remember that you should run whatever program you decide to do past your physical therapist. You are seeing a PT, right?

Seated Exercise: If this is a new injury you're going to want to take it easy at first. The best place for you is on the steps of the pool, where you can be sure you are secure and you can perform very controlled, focused movements. Leg lifts are great from this position. Sitting at the edge of the step lift the leg straight up until it is fully extended. Moving from a seated position to a standing position is also perfect for the steps. Separate your feet hip distance apart and slowly oscillate from seated position to standing position. Do each of these exercises 10x on each leg and then gradually increasing until you reach 20 or 30 without pain.

Marching: Once you have mastered your seated poses you are ready to move to standing. Marching is your next step. Move away from the stairs to where you're shoulder deep. Lift each knee one at a time to hip level. Repeating 10x on each knee and gradually increase until you reach 20 or 30 reps without pain.

Running: Once you have mastered your stationary marching you are ready to move around the pool. A great way to strengthen the knee is to run in water. You must make a deliberate effort to move against the resistance of water in order to gain the benefits of it. This allows you to work harder than running above water but keeps your joints safe from harm. You might want to invest in an aquajogger - floating devices for your waist, arms and feet that can simulate the above water experience of jogging in a low-impact way. With the aquajogger you can make your way around the pool like your running laps. You will find that you wear out much quicker than on land.

To give you even more incentive to get into swimming, the University of Western Australia conducted a study on nine well-trained triathletes (as published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine). Participants were asked to perform an interval running task at 90 % capacity. Half the subjects were told to lie down and rest after the run, while the other half were given instructions to swim. They found that those who swam immediately after had better recovery than those who had rested. They were able to run for almost 14 minutes as opposed to those that rested who could only run 12 minutes. These findings suggest that swimming for recovery enhances performance. Water is ~800 times more dense than air. So you are actually getting a better workout than a run or bike ride. It is a form of resistance exercise which is known as the best way to increase muscle strength and mass. The great thing about swimming is that you are using the whole body to accomplish the task of making your way across the pool or ocean.
Swimming will speed up your recovery

You are going to need to keep your cardio up if you want to stay in shape while recovering from your injury and swimming is high on the list of exercises to help burn calories. Every time you swim for at least 10 minutes you burn a nice amount of calories: the breast stroke will burn 60 calories; the backstroke burns 80 calories; the freestyle burns up to 100 calories; and the butterfly stroke burns a whopping 150 calories. A great way to increase the amount of calories you burn is to swim in ever increasing intervals with breaks in between.

Studies show that mood directly affects your health and ability to recover. When you are sedentary during your recovery process you are more susceptible to depression which can lead to a number of problems that will only slow your recovery process:
  • Weakened immune system
  • Compromise brain functioning
  • Lack of appetite needed to nourish the body
  • Serotonin production decreases which is necessary for mood, blood flow and cardiovascular health
  • An increase in Cortisol making it difficult for bones to absorb calcium

Of course, there are a host of other benefits to swimming. Like other exercises, it offers a nice steady release of endorphins, the feel good chemicals that give us a sense of joy when released into our blood stream. Just like yoga, swimming is both relaxing because of all the stretching of the muscles and meditative form of exercise because it's aspect of repetitive movements and breath.

William Wilson wrote "The experienced swimmer, when in the water, may be classed among the happiest of mortals in the happiest of moods, and in the most complete enjoyment of the happiest of exercise." Swimming gives the athlete the ability to exercise regardless of injury or weight. It is the only form of exercise that doesn't create intense impact on your internal body because you are only holding up 10 percent of your weight. So if you are looking for an alternative to sitting on the couch during your recovery process, swimming is for you. Put on that swimsuit and hit the pool.

This guest post is contributed by Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, who is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for Beachbody, which provides effective and popular workout videos, including the Insanity Workout, a high intensity interval training program for total body conditioning.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start